WHAT MAKES GRANVILLE ISLAND

WORTH PRESERVING?

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Emily Carr's watercolour titled Indian Encampment, Vancouver (circa 1908-1909). Shows the Granville Street tram and a village on the beaches in what's known today as Vanier Park. Photograph By THE PROVINCE

Time Immemorial

For most of its history, Granville Island  was a sandbar used by the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaɬ Peoples as a ‘gathering place’ known as a7ermitsut.

1915

For most of its history, Granville Island  was a sandbar used by the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaɬ Peoples as a ‘gathering place’ known as a7ermitsut.

 

In 1915, the sandbar was dredged and the Island became known as Industrial Island.

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1915

In 1915, the sandbar was dredged and the Island became known as Industrial Island.

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Photo credit: Hotson, Bakker, Boniface, Haden Architects (HBBH).

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An industrial wasteland, photo credit: Hotson, Bakker, Boniface, Haden Architects (HBBH).

1970

By the early 1970s, most of the industries had moved off Industrial Island, leaving the water and land polluted, a derelict industrial wasteland in the heart of Vancouver.

At this time, some Vancouver locals found that the old buildings could offer mixed-use, affordable rents for experimental businesses.

 

The public embraced this creative and cultural re-use of 'Industrial Island', and with public input and visionary foresight it was designated by the Government of Canada as the site for re-development, as a multi-use “People’s Place” or “urban park”- terms that were coined specifically for the use of this 42-acres of land.

Modern Times

Contemporary Times

Today, Granville Island is situated on the current and traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaɬ Nations. However, it is currently under the administration of the federal government.

Being federally administered has meant that municipal land-use rules do not apply; this has allowed for non-specific and mixed-use zoning which offers an extraordinary opportunity for nurturing diversity, cultural cross-pollination, urban and social innovation, and experimentation.

Ron Basford, and Pierre Trudeau touring Granville Island during its inception. Photo credit: Hotson, Bakker, Boniface, Haden Architects (HBBH).

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Granville Island also offers freedom from market forces, allowing the subsidization and incubation of social innovations and experimentation.

 

A “People’s Place” meant that there would be ‘12 Pillars,’ each providing a variety of activities, something for everyone:

  • Market & Food Culture

  • Arts & Crafts

  • Institutional & Educational

  • Performance Arts

  • Maritime

  • Community & Recreation

  • Restaurant & Entertainment

  • Retail

  • Office

  • Residential

  • Hotel

  • Industry

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As the Island reaches middle age, it has become less relevant to the needs of a broader demographic, with little visible investment in re-imagining Granville Island and then actively integrating those recommendations for the needs of current times, and needs of the public, making it a less accessible, relevant and inspiring public realm. There is a concern that the magic of its 'uniqueness' will continue to fade.